Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey is to introduce legislation that will help protect the supply of new and existing social and affordable homes.
The Minister obtained Executive agreement today to progress the Housing (Amendment) Bill (Northern Ireland) 2020 by Accelerated Passage.
The Bill will change existing housing legislation to facilitate the reversal of the Office of National Statistics (ONS) decision in 2016 to reclassify registered Housing Associations from the private sector to the public sector.
Minister Hargey said:
“Housing is a priority for me and the levels of housing stress here are no secret. I have great ambitions to deliver more housing, targeted to areas in the most need. To do this, we must ensure we have the means to deliver.”
Many of the changes required to existing legislation are technical in nature. The most significant change will be an end to the compulsory need for registered housing associations to operate a House Sales Scheme.
The Minister continued:
“The ending of the House Sales Schemes for housing association properties is required if we are to obtain the reversal of the decision to reclassify housing associations. The Housing Executive scheme is not affected. It is my intention to consult separately on methods of entry to affordable homeownership which will include consideration of the future of the Housing Executive House Sales Scheme. I am keen to support people in to homeownership as well as retain the social housing stock wherever possible.”
There will always be many challenges on the ability to deliver new social homes such as land availability, infrastructure issues and the availability of public finance but the Minister outlined her commitment to doing all she can to deliver for those in need.
Minister Hargey added:
“I am committed to working with my Executive colleagues to deliver more housing and welcome the priority afforded in New Decade, New Approach which sets out how the Executive will enhance investment and agree a new target for social and affordable home starts. Following this crisis, economic and social recovery will be vitally important for everyone. But as I have said, whilst there are challenges ahead, a technicality should not stand in our way of delivery. This legislation will help to maximise the possible investment in a key public asset.”
Without a reversal of the classification decision the number of new social homes built each year would be reduced significantly. It would also reduce access to the funding available for affordable housing through Co-ownership.
Notes to editors:
- Legislation would be amended to end the statutory and compulsory House Sales Schemes for registered Housing Associations after a transition period of two years. This would leave Housing Associations with the option of operating a non-statutory, voluntary sales scheme
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